Spin A Magic Story – Fall 2013 Conference
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Last weekend I attended the SF North and East Bay hosted conference in Oakland. I’d heard good things about this conference and since I’d been part of a couple of picture book MS critique groups, I figured it was time to give this mostly writer focused gathering a try.

I was not disappointed!

 

First off, Preservation Park in Oakland is so very purtiful! Victorian houses, little town-like streets with street lamps, trees, and manicured gardens…! *sigh!*

Now, on to the speakers and workshops…

Nina LaCour is a delight to listen to and perfect for the topic of creating three dimensional characters. This is because she has a sort of childlike mysticism in her presence that takes you somewhere into the world of stories from the get-go. Imagine that first, nice K-2 teacher that was all about the stories and the math and science happened along the way without you even realizing it. That’s her.

John Cusick (Greenhouse Literary) talked about pacing your story, what to keep, and what to toss. He had a GLUT of information for us and must have downed a pot of coffee all by himself to give it to us in his one hour time limit! Cross Mr.Peabody (Of Rocky & Bullwinkle) with… umm… a pot of coffee and be prepared to write VERY fast, because if you miss a single bit he says, might be tough to ask him later what it was. Thankfully, one lady heard enough of a certain title and author he mentioned that she was able to ask the specifics of him and it. I’d missed it entirely and couldn’t even figure out how to ask! I hope they can give him a bit more time, if he speaks again next year.

Bethanie Strout’s (Little & Brown) talk, “Variations on The Emotional Journey: Picture Book Edition” was full when I signed up for the event, so I ended up in the MG/YA version. She highlighted the different writing tools used and ways taken by authors to guide readers on the journey through the main characters’ lives and emotions. All very interesting and useful. I figure I can take this talk and translate it to the picture books they’ve published.

Stefanie Von Borstel (Full Circle Literary) was the big surprise for me. I went to this one because the topic was “Opportunities in Non-Fiction” and, whether you agree with it or not, Common Core is on the horizon. I plan to make sure I’m on the beneficial side of things so that even if nothing else about it works, parents will at least be happy with a couple of books I might be able to get published. It helps that I happen to love knowledge and finding fun and engaging ways to present it. Stefanie’s talk really got me amped up and on the way home one of my non-fic PB story lines became unstuck!

Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy are authors of Non-Fiction picture books on the subject of weaving diversity into our stories. It boils down to being authentic. Have a good reason for that character being of whatever culture they are, because if it’s pasted in, it will be obvious and it will be flat. Wise words.

Panel Discussions with agents and publishers are always welcome and insightful. Like, like, like.

And we had a surprise speaker! Katherine Applegate, whose “The One and Only Ivan” won the Newberry, was there! She accepted the Crystal Kite, chatted with us about her long and hilarious career, and revealed that it was she who had judged the winner of the First Page contest! Well dang, did I felt silly for not having entered some writing then!

While there, I had opportunity to speak with Brian Bowes, SCBWI SF North’s Illustrator Coordinator. Brian is what I call a Swell Guy. Talented, in shape, snappy dresser, combs his hair, has lots of ideas, a quick wit, and knows his stuff. (He’s such a swell guy that I knew it was him I should ping when a dinner mate and fellow PB crit group member realized she had left her jacket on-site! He had indeed picked it up and could give it to me Wednesday night.) Brian introduced me to author and illustrator Alicia Grunow, and she and I hit it off right away. Thanks to events spear-headed by Mr. Bowes and Lea Lyon, my network has grown by leaps and bounds in the span of one month, and I suspect the SF South Bay Illustrators will have opportunity to see more of each other on a fairly regular and informal basis. This past Wednesday Night, a few of us had a Drink & Draw on the subject of Villains and it was fun, even though the Happy Hour music got too loud.

Congratulations to the winners of the writing and portfolio contests! I don’t remember who you are! My bad. But you are awesome none the less and I wish you much success in the coming years! MWAH!

 

This event gets an A+ and a Gold Star!

 

-Sue


[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard - Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]
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What A Week and A Word about Portfolio Content and Feedback
Foiled Again!
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What a Week…

This past Thursday, after making the arrangements for my much-needed gall bladder surgery, we quite unexpectedly had to say good-bye to our dear little black cat Gwynn. She had just turned 14 years old on April 1st. A year and a half ago, Gwynn fought breast cancer and won during Breast Cancer Awareness month. We had an extra year and a half with our sweet girl. And extra year and a half with her chattiness, cuddles, middle of the night pawing at the blanket to be let under it when it was cold, her playfulness, and requests for Morning Reassurance that we weren’t moving again which were rewarded with nose lick kisses from her raspy pink tongue. Gwynn never liked to see me upset and would appear at my side, talk to me, and give kisses the moment she detected my sadness. She had seen me through the death of my little brother, the news of my infertility, the divorce, the hysterectomy, and countless other smaller sadnesses. We even moved cross-country together and, a few years later, she decided that the man I love was ok by her and we got married.

She began coughing a few days ago. It seemed like the usual hairball sort, but there was no hairball. Thursday morning, she was in distress. Just putting her collar on her to take her to the vet caused a coughing fit. I walked the half mile with her along quiet, shady streets to the vet, talking to her through the mesh windows of the soft side cat carrier. She snuggled against me, smelling the spring air.

An x-ray showed a lot of fluid surrounding her lungs. It was pretty much unreadable. The doctor said she could drain the fluid and take more x-rays, and then laid out the possible causes. None of them would end well. I took time to think about it. I asked more questions. I talked to Phil over the phone. And then I decided to do the least harm. Gwynn and I waited together for Phil to drive the half hour to the animal hospital. the staff were so kind. We were left undisturbed the whole time while around us I could hear appointments being shuffled, or delayed. Never once did they rush us.

While we waited, it was my turn to comfort Gwynn, or try to, but I couldn’t stop the tears. Even in her weakened state, she gave me kisses and rubbed my hand with her face. When Phil arrived, we were allowed even more time with her, and when we were ready, she was first sedated, allowed to slip into a calm and relaxed state, and then we gently let her go.

It was a long evening which we filled with rehearsal, walking, and a semi-gall bladder blowout dinner (A berry cider, moroccan salmon, and double chocolate Ghiradelli ice cream!). The next day, we were up early and off to the hospital for my surgery. for once, everything went as expected, albeit a little delayed. I went home in the afternoon and slept off and on. Phil in taking very good care of me and Natasha, our other black kitty, has been attentive as well.

I feel like someone kicked me down a flight of stairs and I’m nauseous if I stand for too long, so I’m not eating solids just yet. But under all of that, I feel better. It makes me wonder just how sick my gall bladder might have been making me.

Today, a condolences card from the vet arrived, as did flowers from a friend back East. Something else arrived, too…

A Word About Portfolio Content

The comments on the three sample pieces I submitted in prep for my portfolio review at NESCBWI’s Spring Conference! I hesitated. This could be good, or bad. But then I thought, Even if it’s bad, it’s an opportunity to learn something. So I opened the big white envelope.

Both reviews were from Art Directors at major publishers. Both had very good things to say. BOTH would like to see more of my work. And one included a special P.S. to keep in touch and a smiley face! To say I’m over-the-moon is an understatement.

Among the comments in both reviews is a concern about consistency of style. I have a couple of different styles I work in, which is a few less than I did in college. I’ve whittled down a bit and would say that I have three, which I spread over the three samples: Cartoon/comic, painterly comic, and cartoon realism. There was also a spread of execution style:

1 – Light, but very layered, hard pigment colored pencil.

2 – Layered watercolor washes with lighter ink line.

3 – Vivid and direct watercolor application with think & thin ink lines.

These samples were selected at a time when my being there was in the stars. I figured they were my best pieces for matching me up with a reviewer and the full portfolio would pull it all together.

What did I learn? When asked to do this again, I’ll choose my favorite style and the medium in which I am most proficient, and pick two pieces from there.  For my third, a similar style, but a different enough execution to hint at being flexible.

What else did I learn?

I need to work on the printing process itself. Perhaps matte presentation paper is not the best when she pages will not be in glossy sleeves. And I’ve got to get the whole scanner and printer color profile thing figured out better so that colors match the originals better and avoid looking even slightly “muddy”.

I can hardly wait to get back to work with these new reviews in mind. Getting good direction is so invigorating! But it’ll have to wait till I’m off the heavy painkillers. Falling asleep on a watercolor painting just makes a mess!


[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard - Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]
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Beware of Monkeys With Wrenches
Foiled Again!
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Just like that, my trip to the NE SCBWI Spring Conference is a No Go. A situation has popped up that will require a doctor and a knife and being grateful for good medical insurance. I am one of the lucky ones.

I’m disappointed. I was really looking forward to the conference. Thankfully, arrangements are being worked out so that I can still take advantage of a few opportunities I would have had, if I were there. I wish I were going to be there, but things are a bit uncertain right now. Best to be on familiar territory in the event of an emergency, catching a cold right now would be a Bad Idea, and who knows when this or that doctor can see me and make time for me to be on the slab.

Anyway, I’m not going to gripe about it. I’ve been through much worse. Worse with worse timing, none the less!

So where do I go from here? Because there is no stop. Not this time. There may be slow, actually… I know there will be some slow, but I don’t think there will be a stop. For instance, today I am just too wound up about seeing the doc tomorrow for a follow-up to talk about surgeons. I needed busywork.

I gathered a ton of reference photos of bears. I’m not sure why I’m so interested in bears lately, but I am.

I scrubbed the bathtub. It needed it. I don’t know what’s in the San Jose water and I’m not sure I want to know. I probably should, though.

Some bills got taken care of.

And then, I scanned, trimmed up, and submitted 2 black and white spot illustrations to the SCBWI Bulletin. Here’s one.

TwillipSpotSML

 

They’re new pieces that were to debut in my portfolio this weekend. This is my attempt to turn lemons into lemonade, y’see. I’ve been thinking for a few months that I really need to make and submit some spot illustrations, but just hadn’t gotten around to it or had what I considered a good idea. If they pick one for the next issue, I know which one it won’t be. After sending them in, I noticed that the current issue was available to download, so I did. And found a pig in a polkadot dress in the back. Well, then! Maybe I’ll resubmit it next year.

My point is, keep going.

There are setbacks. There are rejections. There always will be.

 

Sometimes they are monkeys with wrenches.

It’s nothing personal.

Don’t let them mess with your brakes.

And when all else fails, go out into the summer evening and dance with the fireflies.


[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard - Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]

The Importance of Showing Up
Foiled Again!
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Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of childhood memory sketch work, as inspired by the fabulous Hazel Mitchell and making quite a bit of headway in getting in touch the simple joys, all-encompassing fears, and the deep sadness of being a child, which is so important in making picture book art. I’ve been sharing them on Facebook and Twitter and they’re also now in the Gallery section here. The feedback I’ve gotten through FB and Twitter has been so nice and so appreciated!

But yesterday, I was shocked to have my name suggested to an art director at a rather large publisher, who requested an illustrator that could draw tween girls really well! My being suggested was as a direct result of my sharing those sketches! I was away from home and my computer when all of this happened, so I was really glad I’d put up at least a very basic website here! When the Tweet mentions rolled in, I immediately made sure my website link was correct. Today, said art director and the editor is looking over the web pages of the names that were suggested to him yesterday.

Now, while it is true that I don’t have a complete portfolio to show here right now (I’m working on it), it’s important to note three things I did, just by showing up, that are just as important as the portfolio.

1. Sharing your work. I don’t mean handing it out for anyone to use. No. What I mean by this is, in terms of Twitter, find your tribe and be friendly, use the right hash tags (in this case #kidlitart), and don’t be afraid to say, “Hey! Look what I drew today!” Be a neat person, do neat things, and share. It’s just like kindergarten. (I almost typed kinderfarten! Great! I’ll be thinking about that all day!)

2. A basic website is usually better than none at all! I’m not going to get the job. Not without the portfolio. I know this and I’m ok with it. BUT! Someone very talented in her own right, Diandra Mae , thought enough of me to toss my name into the hat. Thank you, D! Now imagine if I hadn’t had ANY sort of a website ready! Not even some morsel to create an interest, to keep me on the radar! A few weeks ago, I set about getting some things organized here, including the addition of the Flickr Stream, and my About and Contact page. Man, was I relieved to know that I had already done that! Now, at the very least, the AD will see that I can definitely draw, (which he stated in a Twitter Talk was the most important thing he looks for in a new illustrator.), know a little bit about me (a more personal connection), and how to get in contact with me. So don’t let the lack of a complete portfolio slow you down. Start, or work on your web page.

3. Butt in Studio Chair. With all of the distractions we have around us these days, especially technological ones, this is a biggie. I’ve learned a few things about myself that are making this last one easier. It looks like this.

Every day: Get up, feed the cats, eat a simple breakfast, write your morning pages, stop looking at FB on your phone AGAIN, get a shower, no PJs, and do NOT sit in the black leather easy-chair by the front window, you know the one that lets in the sweet smell of orange blossoms, attracts the lap cat beasts, and gets nice and warm from the sun, and…!

Put more succinctly: Have a routine, identify pitfalls, and keep the pitfalls OUT of your routine.

Happy Showing Up, everyone!


[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard - Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]
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Three Positive Thangs!
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1- I went to a publisher's Open House yesterday! I was prepared! People liked my business postcards! I actually talked to people! (Such an introvert.) People who seemed happy to be buddies, pals, or what-have-yous! People thought I was very witty/funny. I didn't use an exclamation point there!

2- SANE has gone wonky from the oversized scanner being unplugged and now it won't scan right. It doesn't scan the whole bed. I can find no way to set preferences. But oddly enough I'm not stressed about it, because I'll get it sorted out somehow. The not freaking out is the positive bit. Maybe I just need to uninstall and reinstall SANE. Hmm.

3- It feels really good to finally be on the right path with my feet under me.

Things To Come
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First and foremost, this blog is going to be getting some love in the coming weeks. Namely, adding a gallery of sketchwork and finishes, so that I can share fun WIP things like this…

YetiMomInksWIP

I’ll be finishing the design of this drawing with a full background and then applying different methods to flesh it out and see what I’m most comfortable with and like most in order to create a finished piece. The finished piece will go into the gallery of finishes and, if its lucky enough, into the digital portfolio! Ooooh! Aaaah!

Other features will include book reviews, be they picture book, books about illustration or illustrators (I’m currently reading Show Me A Story, Why Picture Books Matter, Conversations With 21 Of The World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, a mouthful of a title by Leonard S. Marcus), or the latest novel that makes me go WOW! Which would be Tony DiTerlizzi’s A Hero For WondLa right now. Over-The-Hump Day will be a Wednesday post of an unpredictable nature, but something to coax a smile and remind you that the weekend is coming!

And there’s a super-secret project coming, too.

I have some other wild ideas, but I won’t delve into those just yet. Not till I work them out.

So, that’s what’s going on right now. Check back here or follow me on Twitter (@suerankinsays) to get notification when there’s an update!


[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]

Three Very Positive Thingies
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1 - Getting over technological hardware anxiety. I'm sick of the heart-thumping that goes with firing up the Most Excellent Printer and worrying about...I dunno... Things. Yesterday I shipped off Flat Natalie with some 39 printed photos. I had overcome the Selphy printer that will now only work via USB stick or camera. So last night, with my confidence up, I looked at Most Excellent Printer (for making prints to sell or put in the portfolio) and said, "We need to print things! Gotta send in samples to be matched up with a reviewer for that event in May!" I turned it on and fretted while it went through warm up processes. I'd forgotten how long that took, or seemed. And then it was ready! Yay! I printed one thing. One small thing. And then it went, "Meh!" And I realized, as it was not the last minute, that this was ok. And my local electronics store actually carries the cartridges! Today was not so heart-thumpy, even though there were more troubles.

It had finally sunk in.

It's just hardware and I'm no dummy.

2 - I have story ideas. Good ones.

3 - I also realized today that I am now more able to turn off that feeling of "Keeping Up With The Jones', where the Jones' are other artists and writers. It's a Comfortable In My Own Skin thing. I think it may be a direct result, at least in part, of the Flat Natalie project. I can hardly wait to see the nieces and nephew in PA this Spring and be their rock star.

Three Positive Things (weekend edition)
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1 - A workaround was found for my photo printer whose drivers are lacking, thus extending the life of something I dreaded having to replace. Not so much for the cost of the new one, but for the sense of waste. I can't stand wasting something.

2 - Starting the week with both Phil and I at home, getting up together, making breakfast, and starting our day together. I sense that we're hitting our stride. It comes at the cost of being more of a hermit, but I'm ok with that. There are Things To Do.

3 - Having a plan. Or, at least, formulating one. I always feel better when I have a plan.

Kerry's Final Arrangements
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I have received the word and while I was momentarily taken aback, I cannot say I was very surprised to learn that Kerry is to be cremated and there will be no service. As it was told to me, Kerry wanted "no Pity Parties, just move forward," which is a Very Kerry Sort of Thing.

Respecting the wishes of friends can be so very difficult.

I still plan to make the book, so do please keep sending your submissions to either the_gneech or myself. They've been of great comfort to me and, I hope, catharsis for you.

Three Positive Things
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I am reminded by the_gneech that this is a good thing to do, so here goes:

1. Having a project to distract you during a rough time is a Good Thing. Bonus points if it is for a niece or nephew who looks up to you.

2. Knowing that someone looks up to you. It reminds you to behave accordingly.

3. Serendipity. Let the universe know in a kind fashion what you need so that it has the chance to fall into your lap. Case in point, I asked some illustration, especially children's lit, type people what other books they would recommend in addition to those I had. The very next day (today), Show Me A Story is thrust in front of me at the indie book store by my husband, who was looking for an activity book about writing for the afore mentioned niece who looks up to me.

?

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